'Mercury News' Editor Frustrated By Lack Of Details In Reporter's Death

By: Joe Strupp A day after veteran San Jose Mercury News reporter Richard Ramirez was found dead in his home, newsroom staffers have still not been told how he died or who found him, according to Executive Editor Carole Leigh Hutton, who said the lack of information is frustrating to a devastated staff.

"They are being very tight-lipped," Hutton, who joined the paper just last month, said about the Livermore, Calif. Police Department. "It is very frustrating, especially for people who are his friends. It is hard for them not to have all of the details. We just know that they are conducting an investigation."

Ramirez, 44, was found dead in his home Wednesday, according to the Mercury News, which posted first word of his death on its Web site last night. A 23-year veteran of the paper, Ramirez was married and active in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Hutton said police have yet to say if he was murdered, committed suicide or died of some freak accident. "There is no police report, nothing," she said. "We have nothing offered to us. We just know that it was at his home because of one of our group papers over there that found out."

The editor said the lack of information only allows people to speculate about the worst. "We extrapolate from the investigation that it was not natural causes, but that is not to say it was homicide or suicide," she said. "But they don't normally investigate heart attacks."

The surprise death comes less than three years after former Mercury News reporter Gary Webb committed suicide and six years after photographer Luci Houston was murdered by her ex-husband.

"People are devastated," Hutton said about the newsroom today. "It is horrible to lose a colleague anytime, but when there is uncertainty or confusion around it, it is even tougher to shoulder that. I wish they would make a determination and tell us so we have some kind of confirmation of what happened."


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